Will Chris Webber Decide Who Wins the 2007 NBA Title?Stop me if you've heard this story before: an All-Star power forward wears out his welcome with several teams; he amasses impressive statistics but his teams do not win any championships; by the time his last team gives up on him, he is barely averaging 10 ppg and his career seems to be coming to an unceremonious end. Sounds like Chris Webber, right? It does, but I'm actually referring to Bob McAdoo. The Lakers acquired McAdoo in December 1981 to replace the injured Mitch Kupchak and McAdoo revived his career, making indispensable contributions to two Lakers title runs in the next four years. Then Lakers Coach Pat Riley has said on more than one occasion that the Lakers would not have won those championships without McAdoo.
As you've probably heard by now, the Philadelphia 76ers have bought out Chris Webber's contract and will waive him, enabling him to sign with any team in the league. TNT's David Aldridge reported that it is virtually certain that Webber, a Michigan native who played his college ball for the University of Michigan, will land with the Detroit Pistons but Webber refuted that suggestion just a short while later when he was interviewed by Ernie Johnson and the TNT studio crew. Time will tell if Aldridge spoke too soon or if Webber will pull a "Saban" and end up in Detroit. Meanwhile, it is tantalizing to consider some of the possibilities. Webber said that money is not an issue--which is an easy stance to take when you've just received tens of millions of dollars from the Sixers--and that his primary concern is that he wants to go to a team that is contending for a title. That rules out most of the teams in the East including, if Webber is smart, Detroit; regardless of the Pistons' regular season record, this team is clearly on a downward arc as a playoff squad--champions in '04, runner-up in '05, conference finalist in '06. The two most important pieces of that championship team--Coach Larry Brown and perennial Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace--are gone and Webber does not have enough left in the tank to replace their contributions.
One interesting possibility for Webber if he wants to reprise McAdoo's career renaissance is to go where McAdoo is currently an assistant coach and where Pat Riley is running the show--the Miami Heat. That might sound crazy at first, but Miami is the defending champion and the main thing that the Heat are trying to do is stay in the playoff hunt while Shaquille O'Neal and Riley get recharged for the playoffs. Would anybody in the East really want to face the Heat in the playoffs if O'Neal is completely healthy and Riley is on the bench calling the shots? Webber told TNT that based on being a 20-10 player last year that he still considers himself a starting player. He would not likely be a starter in Detroit but he could start at center or power forward right now for the Heat and could start at power forward alongside Shaq once the Diesel returns. Honestly, no other team in the East makes sense for Webber at this stage of his career.
If Webber decides to go to the Western Conference, there are several destinations that would be a good fit. How about San Antonio? The Spurs have not been getting enough out of the center position. Webber said that he would be willing to play center. Duncan and Webber would be an interesting frontcourt tandem. Another intriguing option is the L.A. Lakers. Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown have shown promise but I'm sure that Coach Phil Jackson would love to have a veteran big man who can rebound and pass. Webber specifically mentioned that he thinks that the triangle offense is perhaps the best offense ever; it is certainly well suited to his skills as a high post passer.
A lot of people seem to believe that Webber is done physically but I disagree. As he pointed out, he was a 20-10 player last year despite having a bad leg. Webber says that his leg is healed now. There is no question that he has not been an explosive leaper since he had microfracture surgery but with the Sixers this year he is still getting about 8 rpg in limited minutes. He can still rebound and he always has been able to pass and that means that in the right situation he can definitely still contribute. Webber's history in clutch situations is not great but if he goes to Miami, San Antonio or the Lakers that will not be a problem: Wade, Duncan or Kobe will have the ball down the stretch, not Webber, but teams will still have to guard him (and box him out), which will provide Webber's teammates more room to operate than they have now.
posted by David Friedman @ 1:33 AM